In his 20 years as mayor, Tom Menino was known for transforming so many of Boston's varied neighborhoods. Yesterday, his own neighborhood of Hyde Park was itself transformed, into a symbol of the city's mourning on the day of his passing.
Generation of Bostonians knew Tom Menino as their mayor. Jim Mariano, owner of B.C. Baking Company in Hyde Park, knew him first as a neighbor — and a customer.
"Angela came in much more than he did, but he’d come in occasionally see how things were going," Mariano said. "He just had his thumb on everything. He had the beat of the public running through his veins he was just a great, great guy."
Marian Barone lives around the corner from the Meninos’ home. Like many residents here, she called the former Mayor “a good neighbor — and a friend.”
"He’d see you and come over and talk to you," Barone said. "Not just like 'I’m the mayor, I’m better than you,' nope. He was equal with everyone, he treated you … equal."
Nothing says neighborhood quite like a block party. Barone says Menino threw a whopper each July, and that the whole neighborhood came out.
"He used to have parties every year here," she said. "Big cookouts. Hundreds of people. He used to order like 500 pounds of Italian sausages, hot dogs … Oh, delicious."
Nelson Salas, who lives a few doors down from the Meninos, was lowering the flag on his lawn to half-staff.
"Which is something I don’t usually do, but for this man, its like, people do so respect him, and I think I definitely got to do it," he said.
Salas recalled his many chats with Menino. And how the former mayor was among the first on the scene the day of a gas explosion at a house on their street. But what really impressed Salas, was Menino’s fierce commitment to a yearly neighborly duty: Handing out candy on Halloween.
"For him to take the time to be giving candies to kids for hours and hours, even though if the weather sometimes would be kind of cold, you know … " he said.
It’s clear that Hyde Park residents have a special place in their heart for the former mayor, and that he had the same for them. But Mariano says that what made Menino special was that his real neighborhood was every neighborhood.
"He was one of the guys in the neighborhood, we’d see each other, we’d talk," he said. "He made himself to anybody though. Not just this neighborhood, but anywhere in the city. He was really loved."
And if Tip O’Neil was right, and all politics is local, you can understand why a neighbor like Tom Menino became the longest serving mayor in Boston’s storied history.